Anyone who’s spent even as much as 5 minutes on Twitter over the last month has been inundated by a series of “Pick 3” or “Which quarantine house would you choose” gimmicks. But if you think that’s tiresome, imagine being Nico Hoerner and very literally living a combination of those memes. The 22-year-old infielder is sequestered in an Arizona abode with Ian Happ, Dakota Mekkes, and Zack Short, which actually seems like a pretty solid group.
Spurred by Happ, the can’t-go-to-a-barbershop quartet has launched a podcast called The Compound and they’re doing their best to stay entertained and in shape. That includes working out with some equipment they, uh, borrowed from the training facility at Sloan Park. Outfielder Ian Miller told Cubs Insider he was able to get some equipment, including cones and kettlebells, but having four people means putting together a legit home gym.
“The last couple days we were allowed to be at the Mesa complex, guys were literally taking carts in the weight room and taking the weights back to their house,” Hoerner admitted to NBC Sports Chicago’s Gordon Wittenmyer. “But they ended up kind of accepting it and have been really great with giving us advice with the equipment we have and making the most of it,” he said. “We have a pretty solid weight room in the garage.”
That should help keep him physically prepared for the season, if and when it actually gets started again. Whether we see all 30 teams concentrated in Phoenix or split into Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues, the prospect of a shortened season almost certainly means expanded rosters. Even after breaking out during his unexpected call-up last year, Hoerner may have been ticketed for Triple-A in order to hone his plate approach had the season proceeded according to plan.
Regardless of when he makes it back to Chicago, Hoerner’s impact there is preceding him. He recently joined Cameo, a service that allows users to request personalized videos and direct messages from their favorite athletes and celebrities, in order to raise money for the Compassion Fund for COVID-19 Closures operated by Chicago’s Children First Fund. All proceeds from Hoerner’s videos ($40.00) and DMs ($2.99) will be donated to the charity, which seeks to provide support and relief for CPS students and families.
“I wanted it to be something that had an immediate impact but also to build some relationships, where I can do some face-to-face stuff in the future,” Hoerner told Wittenmyer. “I want it to be part of my time in Chicago.”
At the risk of sounding trite, Hoerner just seems like a guy who gets it. As much as his more obvious athletic talent, that maturity is what led the Cubs to draft him and then push him to the Arizona Fall League after an abbreviated initial season as a pro. It’s also why, along with a few injuries, he was in Chicago last September instead of a planned return engagement in Mesa.
Hoerner should have a long MLB career ahead of him, but his legacy in Chicago is likely to last far longer than his playing days. Not bad for a guy who’s probably going to spend his 23rd birthday in relative isolation.
Ed. note: I ordered a Cameo from Hoerner after seeing how he was using it to raise money. It’s a really great service and I’ve gotten a couple of these for each of my kids now.